Summer Wrap: Girls Day in the Swan Valley @ The Cheese Barrel, Swan Valley

Summer Wrap is a series of my highlights and favourites from summer. A collection of eating,drinking and dining that captures the sunny warm weather of a Perth summer to a ‘T’. This two part post was the inspiration for this series as I have recently been looking back over this past summer and all the things I have enjoyed doing in and around Perth to do with drinking and dining.

Before I left Perth I made plans with some girlfriends from university to do a day trip out to the Swan Valley so I could visit the Swan Valley one last time before I left. On the day we all piled into a car, cranked up some tunes and headed out for the Swan Valley which was about a 30-40minute drive up Roe Highway from where we all lived.

All packed into the car and ready to drive.

All packed into the car and ready to drive.

When we arrived in the Swan Valley the first port of call was the Margaret River Chocolate Company’s Factory. We walk around the Chocolate Factory checking out the samples of chocolate, picking up a few pieces of chocolate for friends and family before heading over to check out Providore. At Providore we found a range of preserves, chutneys and prepared meal packages. There was lots of sampling of different preserves on offer and most were given a big thumbs up. There was also a quick sampling of the white wines from Coward & Black that Providore had for tasting, with the Semillon Sauvignon Blanc being the favourite.

After our time at the Chocolate Factory we made a quick stop at Yahava Koffee which had a lovely patio to sit under and enjoy a drink as you looked out over the vineyards and countryside. Some of the girls check out their coffee samples. I passed on on the coffee sampling and instead chose to marvel at the tranquil view from the shade of the patio. The reports back were that they took their coffee very seriously and if you want to visit to invest a portion of time to truly give this place the chance to impress you with their knowledge of and range of coffees.

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Quick photo op in the vines at Olive Farm Wines.

By now it was lunch time and we were in need of a feed after our busy morning of driving and tasting. I had requested that lunch involve cheese and so we headed over to The Cheese Barrel for lunch. When we arrived we chose to sit at a table inside as it was a very hot day and the air conditioning inside the Cheese Barrel was lovely. A quick look at the menu made us realise we had no clue where we wanted to start so we opted to pick one of their platters. We ended up settling on the ‘Gather and Share’ Platter ($57.50) to share between the 5 of us. To go with the platter I selected a Phoenix Organic Ginger Beer ($4) as I was on driving duty that day. Others chose between a glass of Olive Farm Sparkling Brut ($9.50), a ginger beer or lemon lime bitters from Phoenix Organic.

The ‘Gather and Share’ Cheese Platter consisted of  ‘6 premium cheeses (3 soft and 3 hard) elegantly printed with Parisian baguette slices, lavish bites, premium leg ham, quiche paste, marinated olives, pan de high and seasonal fruit slices’. One of the soft cheeses was meant to be a blue cheese, however as I was the only one in the group who ate blue cheese and not a great deal of it the lady at the counter was more than happy to substitute a different soft cheese for us which was greatly appreciated.

The cheeses in clockwise order from the top were:

1. Labuche d’Affinois
2. Rouzaire Camembert
3. Mountain Man
4. Queso de Murcia Al Vino
5. Quickes Cheddar
6. Queso San Simon

Cheeses 3 (Mountain Man) and 4 (Queso de Murcia Al Vino) were the overall favourites however all the cheeses were enjoyed and finished off along with all the other delicious toppings that the platter came with! I have enjoyed a few platters from the Cheese Barrel and this one again did not dissapoint!

We ended our time in the Swan Valley with a stop at Mondo Nougat for some ice-cream as we drove home. The strawberry ice-cream they had turned out to be very sugary and not to anyones liking so we passed on the ice-cream and had a look around the shop before hopping back in the car and heading home.

A few more hours would have been lovely but many of us had afternoon plans to get back to. To make a full day in the Swan Valley I would suggest checking out some of the wineries in the region such as Sittella and Olive Farm Wines.

The Cheese Barrel on Urbanspoon

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Summer Wrap: Drinks (Part 2)

Summer Wrap is a series of my highlights and favourites from summer. A collection of eating,drinking and dining that captures the sunny warm weather of a Perth summer to a ‘T’. This two part post was the inspiration for this series as I have recently been looking back over this past summer and all the things I have enjoyed doing in and around Perth to do with drinking and dining.

With summer winding down in Australia I have been looking over the past few months for my favourite drinks, places to eat and things to cook during the season. With the warmer weather I found was perfect for drinking a few ciders with friends on the weekend. And this post picks up from my previous posts on good wines and cocktails to drink in the summer months, if you haven’t read that post yet you can do so here. While working on this post I brought in a dear friend and fellow cider-lover D from Perth who I used to work with, to help me narrow down our top favourites.

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D and I have spent countless hours back when I used to work in a bottle shop in Perth eyeing off the cider fridge trying to pick out which one we would try next. It has been a long journey but it is safe to say that we have finally tasted our way through all the cider ranges now. The last cider we had to try was Rekorderlig’s Apple and Guava which was kindly sent to me by Katy so we could try it. When Katy reached out to me I remembered all the times D and I had stared at the cider fridge wondering which one we should try next and realised how overwhelming the expansion of the cider-market can be for people who just rush into the bottle-shop wanting the perfect cider for their needs at that point. This idea then grew to include the other thing I think of when I think cider, and that is summer! Summer and cider for me go hand in hand! Although I do drink cider year-round, I have a special spot for it in the hot afternoons in the summer months.

There are plenty of ciders on the market! Enough to make sure you have a range of favourites ciders for each and every occasion you could imagine! Ciders range in sweetness, flavours, alcohol content, and the intensity of the fruit in the cider. Each person ends up finding their own niche in the cider market. My preference is for the cider to be fruit driven and on the dryer side of the sweetness scale. I do also from time to time feel like a flavoured cider and having tasted many of these I was quick to adopt the Rekorderlig brand before it reached it’s crazed following that it rightly deserves in the cider-market in Australia.

Traditional Ciders

Below is a collection of ciders that have previously been features on this blog in the 18 or so months that I have been writing blog posts. I have tried many more but not taken a snapshot at the time. The Cidery is a favourite of mine but one that is not the easiest to find in bottle shops in Perth. Their ciders are true to the apple flavours and they have a range that will enable anyone to find a sweetness to their liking. I highly recommend stopping at the Cidery if you are in or around Bridgetown or even picking up some of their ciders if you see them in one of the smaller independent liquor retailers in and around Perth. Monteiths and Bulmers are my go-to ciders when I am out having drinks with friends and looking for something on-tap. Monteiths is a New Zealand cider and their ciders tend to have a softer finish while still being a dry cider compared to Bulmers. One other cider brand that I have been meaning to mention is Somersby. Somersby has been a newish addition to the cider market that has done very well this past summer and has become the all-rounder go-to for many people including myself over the likes of 5 Seeds and Strongbow ciders.

Flavoured Ciders

When it comes to flavoured ciders the market is not as large but there is still enough of a range for people to become perplexed by. Rekorderlig is the range that stormed onto the scene a couple of years ago and has been blazing a trail of popularity and success for other ranges such as Bulmer’s Blackcurrant flavour, Monteith’s flavoured range, Cheeky Rascal, and Kopparberg to start appearing on bottle shop shelves. All but the Cheeky Rascal (VERY high alcohol content which does not make for an enjoyable drink) ranges are nice, but it was Rekorderlig which won my heart over. Rekorderlig has a wide range of flavours that I have tasted my way through and while not all were favourites of mine I did not hate a single one.

D helped me out especially with this post when it came to reviewing Rekorderlig’s new Apple and Guava flavour. I have included his review word for word below with his permission as I felt it fit the cider to a ‘T’ and I could not have reviewed it any better!

Apple and Guava is one of the recent additions to my local liquor store shelf. An avid fan of the brands previous flavours, I was very keen to give this one a try. The cider manages to balance the flavour of the two fruits perfectly. The acidic level is much less obvious when compared to other ciders, a quality I have come to appreciate from Rekordelig. In saying this I also found this flavour less overly sweet than some of its siblings which are a bonus. The result of this balance is a much lighter feel in the mouth and enjoyed cool or better over ice, is just a great way to top off the day. I tend to find that my body doesn’t like too much at either end of the bitter/sweet spectrum before it starts telling me to stop. That can be a good or bad thing depending how you look at it I suppose but some days you just need a few, ya hearing me? ;P We all have those days.. Anyhoo, back to the A&G.. The guava becomes more noticeable as the palate clears. The apple is less detectable however given how many apple ciders are out there we can hardly fault it for stepping back to let Guava be the hero. It is very refreshing, perhaps the most of this brand’s varieties. It is lightly bubbly and has a very light pink blush. In fact, if you poured this into a sparkling wine glass no one would be any the wiser! 😉 This drink is ideal on those summery days but if I’m being honest, I am quite happy drinking something over ice anytime of the year so I won’t let the seasons slow me from enjoying the odd cold one.

Apple and Guava Rekorderlig

Apple and Guava Rekorderlig

Disclaimer: Katy at Exposure was kind enough to send me a case of Rekorderlig’s Apple and Guava to sample the new flavour.

Summer Wrap: Drinks (Part 1)

Summer Wrap is a series of my highlights and favourites from summer. A collection of eating,drinking and dining that captures the sunny warm weather of a Perth summer to a ‘T’. This two part post was the inspiration for this series as I have recently been looking back over this past summer and all the things I have enjoyed doing in and around Perth to do with drinking and dining. This post will be split over two entries as it was getting a little long. This post will be on wine and other drinks with follow-up entry coving my go-to summer drink – cider!

With summer winding down in Australia I have been looking over the past few months for my favourite drinks, places to eat and things to cook during the season. With the warmer weather I found myself gravitating towards and embracing white wine a lot more this summer than I have in the past. I also found the hot summer weather was perfect for drinking a few ciders with friends on the weekend.

Wine

With the warmer weather a dry white wine was my go to. I found myself seeking out dryer white wines, often a Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend or a Riesling. Castelli had a stall at UnWined WA last year and is where I ended up falling in love with their Riesling. If you are looking for a nice riesling and want it to be local I have yet to try a Great Southern reisling that I did not like!

Castelli Whites.

Castelli Whites.

I have also been enjoying a few bottles of bubbly with friends this past summer. Bubbles is a drink that is acceptable at all hours of the day from straight up or in a Mimosa for brunch right through to toasting and celebrating at the end of the night. I am loving Prosecco and Australian bubbles. A local favourite I tried at the start of summer last year was Sitella’s sparkling chenin blanc, this is a great bubbly with a twist! Highly recommend checking this wine out at their cellar door if you are visiting the Swan Valley or keeping an eye out for it on wine lists around Perth.

Sitella Sparkling Chenin Blanc

Sitella Sparkling Chenin Blanc

Lastly for those red wine drinkers who cannot give up their beloved red even in the heat of summer. I have found that chilling my red wines, especially lighter reds such as Pinot Noirs to be very enjoyable. Another option is to swap out your glass of red for a glass of Rose. I tried a lovely 2013 dry Rose called Cajones Muy Grande (a Grenache and Mourvedre blend) from Bakkheia Wines in the Geographe Wine region at a wine showcase last year, it was my favourite wine I tried that night.

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Cocktails

When I was dining out with friends this past summer I found myself often gravitating towards a cocktail with my meal. When ever I am dining out at a beachfront location I always find myself in the mood for a cocktail. At Salt on the Beach just behind the dunes at Port Beach in North Fremantle I stumbled across a delicious and simplistic lychee cocktail. At The Pickled Fig off South Beach in South Fremantle I tried their Earl’s Punch cocktail and enjoyed its refreshing flavour. Lastly if you are in the CBD looking for a cocktail and meal combo you cannot go past Jamie’s Italian and its whole package. I have tried quite a few of the cocktails at Jamie’s and have yet to have a bad thing to say about any of them on their flavour and they are well priced!

Keep an eye out for the second instalment of this post up later this week!